Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Rougish Rake - Sir Philip Sydney

Philip Sidney
 Sir Philip Sidney was a popular poet during Elizabeth's later reign. He was born in 1554 to Sit Henry Sidney and Lady Mary Dudley. He was the nephew of Robert Dudley, favorite of Queen Elizabeth  I.

In 1572, he traveled to France as part of the embassy to negotiate a marriage between Elizabeth I and the Duc D'Alençon. Upon his return, Sidney quarrelled with Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford. Sidney opposed the French marriage while de Vere championed it. Sidney, ever passionate, challenged de Vere to a duel. Elizabeth strictly forbade. Sidney, feathers still ruffled, wrote a long letter to the Queen detailing his opinion on the matter. The Queen was displeased and Sidney sulked away from court.

During his absence from court, Sidney focused on his poetry. Being a poet, Sidney was apt at expressing love. In the 1580's he wrote a series of sonnets devoted to Penelope Devereux. They two would have been married, but her father died in 1576. Thus, the marriage feel through. Penelope Devereux was quickly married off, against her will, to Lord Rich.

Frances Walsingham
Returning to the Queen's good graces, Sidney was knighted in 1583. Sidney had another arrangement to marry Anne Cecil, daughter of Sir William Cecil . However, this too feel through and she was, interestingly, married to de Vere, Sidney's mortal enemy. In 1583, he finally married. The blushing bride was Frances, the much younger daughter of Sir Francis Walsingham (and later the wife of Robert Devereaux, Elizabeth's executed favorite).

Passion ever fueling his decisions, Sidney became keenly militant Protestant. In the 1570s, he had attempted to organize a united Protestant effort against the Roman Catholic Church and Spain, however he received little support. Finally, the Queen gave Sidney and outlet for his pent up aggression: an appointed as governor of Flushing in the Netherlands. He served under his uncle, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. He, or course, urged action. He finally got it whe he participated in the Battle of Zutphen. As with any romanticized historical novel, Sidney was fatally shot in the thigh and died at the age of 31.

Sidney's Funeral Procession
His image was sensationally played up. One story abounded that while lying wounded he gave his water-bottle to another wounded soldier, saying, "Thy necessity is yet greater than mine." Through the Astrophel, Sidney came to represent the"flower of English manhood."

What do you think? Was Sidney a tragic figure who deserved the title "Flower of English Manhood?" Or was he a hot headed, impulsive lover who deserves the title Roguish Rake? Pin It

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Elizabeth, for telling us about this remarkable individual. Philip Sydney's importance and reputation at the time was probably a lot greater than we give him credit for these days.
    The Elizabethan astrologer and mathematician John Dee compiled a 62 page nativity horoscope and interpretation for him, including predictions (the only example of Dee's nativity work to have survived). In it, he stated that Sidney would have a successful career between the ages of fifteen and thirty-one, but that at this time he would be in mortal danger from a sword or gunshot wound. If he survived this he would bring great glory to himself. But, as you say, sadly he did not survive. He was killed in October 1586, aged 31. The 'glory' remains, however, in those famous last words - which really weren't at all bad, I think.